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Former Reddit employees suggest CEO Ellen Pao was set up to fail – or pushed over glass cliff

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The community website recently lost chief engineer Bethanye Blount after less than two months in the job. She revealed that her resignation was not directly linked to Pao’s exit, but that she had lost confidence in the direction of the company.

Not only did she feel there were going be “some big bumps” on the road ahead for Reddit, she suggested that Pao’s exit was an indirect consequence of gender discrimination, and that she had been placed on a “glass cliff.” According to website re/code, it is a term used to describe women being set up for failure by being put in leadership roles during crises.

Pao resigned eight months after she started working at Reddit when 200,000 users called for her dismissal after she fired employee Victoria Taylor – who was in charge of the Ask Me Anything (AMA) section. At the time, Pao said it was because she felt unable to meet the board’s growth goals. 

However, former CEO Yishan Wong, who resigned in November 2014, recently suggested that it had not been Pao’s decision to fire Taylor. He blamed the move on Reddit co-founder and board member Alexis Ohanian. 

“Ohanian wasn’t some employee reporting to Pao, he was the executive chairman of the board, ie Pao’s boss,” he wrote. “He had different ideas for the AMA section and didn’t like Taylor’s role, so he decided to fire her. Pao wasn’t able to do anything about it.”

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Ohanian appeared to confirm his role in the situation by writing that it had been his decision to change how the company worked with those writing in the AMA category.

“When the hate train started up against Pao, Ohanian should have been out front and centre saying very clearly ‘Ellen Pao did not make this decision, I did’,”  Wong said. “Instead, he just sat back and let her take the heat. I used to respect Ohanian. After this, not quite so much.”

Pao also lost a sexual discrimination lawsuit against former employer Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers in March 2015. Pao claimed she had been fired when she complained about discrimination.

During the case, her lawyers said Pao was cut out of emails and meetings by a male colleague with whom she broke off an affair, as well as being given a book of erotic poetry by a partner at the company.

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